Green Productions

When one mentions environmental or green technology, industries like mining, oil drilling and power production come to mind, not Hollywood filmmaking. And yet, Hollywood has campaigned hard for the environmentalism, and many people learn about saving the environment from Hollywood actors like Robert Redford, Leonardo DiCaprio and Harrison Ford. With that in mind, it’s not difficult to understand how the concept of green production came to roost in Tinseltown. The problem is understanding how cinema has become a polluting industry.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB)—California’s leading authority on recycling and waste reduction from 1989 until its abolishment in 2010—once reported in a study that Hollywood produced more air pollution than the hotel, apparel and aerospace industries combined (ranking second only to petroleum refineries and third in greenhouse gas emissions). But where there’s waste, there’s profit—in recycling.

In 1999, CIWMB awarded its seventh annual Connection of the Year Award to entrepreneur Myan Spaccarelli, founder of Looney Bins, a Sun Valley recycler. Looney Bins specialized in hauling off the construction debris of Hollywood sets. Looney Bins grew into Downtown Diversions, a Los Angeles debris recycler with reported annual earnings of $20-$50 million and was so profitable that it was acquired by global giant, Waste Management. To this day, Waste Management works with studios to recycle waste from movie productions. So, if you don’t think film production is a polluting business with tons of green benefits to be reclaimed, look again.

The very terms we use on set, from "10K" to "Brute," refer to the power consumption of our lighting instruments. The chips on which we image and store our scenes are made in highly toxic processes (as are our beloved solar panels). The scripts we interpret, the emulsion of our film (still derived from cow’s hooves), the fuel for our trailers, the disposals of our "honey wagons" all deplete natural resources that are not necessarily renewed. And what about those private Gulfstream jets, so popular with above-the-line talent? Who would have noticed?

Waste Management works with studios to recycle waste from movie productions.

Well, the major studios did and decided several years ago to make serious commitments to conservation. As far back as the production of Syriana, Warner Brothers’ 2005 thriller about America’s clandestine oil deals, producers were eager to set an ethical standard that would sync with the film’s ideals. Producers contributed a portion of the film’s budget to support carbon credit projects initiated by NativeEnergy, an established nonprofit that calculated the carbon footprint of the entire production and then offset that damage with equivalent carbon credits it had earned.

One of the most notable productions, Evan Almighty, Universal Pictures’ 2007 spoof on the story of Noah, achieved "carbon neutral" status and a major PR benefit to boot, by partnering with The Conservation Fund’s "Go Zero" program. Five years after release, the alliance has chalked up 33,440 trees planted (and still counting) in the "Almighty Forest" (actually a group of protected conservation easements across the country).

Not to be outdone, 2012, Sony Pictures’ apocalyptic climate-gone-mad epic, began in 2009 by purchasing carbon credits to offset the energy to be consumed in creating the vast weather effects. Producers also employed biofuels for on-location generators and recycled set-construction materials to Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds low-cost homes for the indigent.

Finally, taking the lead for all producers in 2008, Fox Entertainment Group created a master online resource for the entire industry when it launched the FOX Green Guide. In 2010, this was folded into the Green Production Guide ( under the sponsorship of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and five leading Hollywood studios—Disney, NBC Universal, Sony, Warner Bros. and, of course, FOX.